If you thought the wait for Mega Man X was bad the continuation of the original series would not hit the SNES until its final years. By the time Mega Man 7 was released Mega Man X3 was a few months away. While the gameplay was the same opinions have always been split between the boyish charm of the original and the angst of the X series. As much as I like MM7 coming on the heels of the X games does paint it in a less than favorable light. Those games went a long way toward adding some much needed flavor to the series traditional formula. They make this late release feel old. This is still a pretty good game but it does seem dated.
This 7th installment is an almost immediate follow-up to the events of Mega Man 6. Six months after Dr. Wily was put in jail a contingency plan is activated. Four hidden robot masters awaken to bust him out. As all hell breaks loose around the city the good doctor is freed and leaves to plot his revenge. Joining the battle this time are Bass and Treble, who also have a bone to pick with Dr. Wily. At least this time they didn’t bother trying to fake you out with another antagonist like the last three games.
As Mega Man 7 was released SNES twilight years it draws gameplay elements from both Mega Man X and the Gameboy titles. Rather than the full roster of robot masters being available from the start only four are accessible. This is a huge blow to fun of finding the perfect boss order and cuts down on the non-linearity that made the series so popular. It is only after the initial quartet are defeated that the last group becomes available for story based reasons. These aren’t the most inspired bosses in the series either. Cloud Man and his stage are very reminiscent of Air Man while Junk Man is a more advanced Dust Man.
Mega Man retains all of his abilities from the prior games however the Robot Master powers have been expanded significantly. All boss weapons have secondary functions and increase the interactivity within the environment. The thunderbolt can activate machinery while the freeze cracker can, uh, freeze molten steel to create platforms. These interactions lead to shortcuts and a wide variety of hidden items.
Even Rush has been redesigned to aid in these actions. Once you have found the Rush Search he can sniff out items. Many items can only be found this way such as the Rocket Punch Mega Bolt. They really went all out in terms of hiding items making Rush a more integral part of the game. Fan favorites such as the Rush Jet and Super Adapter await those who truly search every nook and cranny. If you are really good enough you can even earn Protoman’s shield! All other items can be purchased in Auto’s Shop for a hefty price.
The puzzle heavy nature of the levels does cover up the scaled back focus on platforming. Due to the larger sprites there is less room for the kinds of elaborate layouts that made the NES games so great. What’s here is decent and at times challenging yet imprecise. There are a good number of jumps that feel off and situations where it is all but impossible to avoid taking hits. There are a few highlights such as Shade Man’s stage being a homage to Ghosts N’ Goblins (complete with remixed music if you so choose) and invisible platforms on Cloud Man’s stage but these inspired moments are rare.
It can be said that the series leaned more towards children yet Mega Man 7 is one of the most challenging in the series. Mega Man’s larger sprite is a big target and I found most enemies take a few too many hits to destroy. The game can be stingy with health items although you can get around this by buying energy tanks in the shop. If you don’t have a particular boss’s weakness it can be rough but incredibly rewarding. Dr. Wily’s castle sees a significant spike and has one of the most frustrating final boss battles I have experienced. You do get a very out of character ending for your trouble I will say.
While it took its sweet time to reach the 16-bit era Mega Man 7 benefits from the SNES’s capabilities. The larger sprites have led to much more expressive animation to a degree similar to the later Mega Man 8. When a boss is hit by their weakness there are special animations and it causes a change in their behavior. It’s a nice addition picked up from the X series. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the overall color palette is exceptional, giving the game an almost cartoon look. Considering the incredibly short development time Capcom’s artists and animators should be commended for what they achieved. The music is decent but there aren’t really any standout tracks in the entire soundtrack. Which is surprising as this was a collaboration between numerous composers.
As much as Capcom have tried to throw a new coat of paint on this old series this is still one of the weaker entries in this franchise. That means it is still better than the vast majority of action games but if you are familiar with the other games in the series there is precious little that is new here and it might seem like a rehash. Keep your expectations in check and you won’t be disappointed.
Overall: 7 out of 10